Tech wrap: Groupon rethinks IPO

Groupon called off an IPO roadshow slated for next week because of market volatility, the Wall Street Journal reported. The Internet coupons site is reassessing the timing for an offering on a week-by-week basis, the newspaper added, citing an unidentified source. Some on Wall Street have questioned Groupon’s financial disclosures, while others are concerned the company’s rapid growth is starting to slow in North America. Groupon CEO Andrew Mason sent a memo to employees recently that was widely reported in the media, in which he blasted critics in the press and on Wall Street.

Sprint filed a lawsuit to stop AT&T’s $39 billion purchase of T-Mobile USA in the same federal court that is to hear the Department of Justice’s case opposing the buyout. Sprint said the combination would lead to higher prices for consumers and create a duopoly between AT&T and Verizon Communications. Also, Sprint argued that if the deal goes through, a combined AT&T and T-Mobile would have the ability to use its control over roaming and spectrum, and its increased market position to exclude competitors.

Dell and China’s top search engine Baidu plan to jointly develop tablet computers and mobile phones, targeting the Chinese market dominated by Apple and Lenovo. Dell declined to give a timeline for the launch of the devices, but local media quoted sources saying that it may be as early as November. Baidu launched a new mobile application platform last week and offered a glimpse of its upcoming mobile operating system, which it hopes will serve a growing number of users accessing the Internet from smartphones and tablet computers.

Regulators in South Korea raided Google’s Seoul offices, according to a source familiar with the matter. Google said in a statement that it will work with the Korean Fair Trade Commission to address any questions it may have about the Web search leader’s business.

Jaguar Financial Corp, an activist shareholder in Research In Motion,  said it wants the struggling BlackBerry maker to consider selling itself or spinning off its patent portfolio, sending RIM’s share price higher. Jaguar CEO Vic Alboini said Jaguar has talked to a select group of shareholders and received broadly positive feedback for its plan. Jaguar, a Canadian merchant bank that targets underperforming companies, and its supporters hold less than 5 percent of RIM’s stock. RIM shares ended up, just over 1 percent.

Tech wrap: Another brick in the paywall

Vehicles drive past the New York Times headquarters in New York March 1, 2010. REUTERS/Lucas JacksonThe New York Times will start charging for full access to its articles on phones, tablet computers and the Web from March 28. You’ll still be able to access as many articles as you want through Facebook and Twitter, writes Business Insider’s Matt Rosoff. Felix Salmon thinks readers will go elsewhere.

Toshiba said an assembly line in Japan making liquid crystal displays would be closed for a month, and PC maker Lenovo voiced worries over parts in the latest threats to electronics supply chains from Japan’s devastating earthquake.

Sales of e-books in January increased by more than 115 percent compared to the same time the year before, a report released by the Association of American Publishers said.

Netbook grows up, learns to play games

Slowly but surely, the netbook is growing up.

At first these sub-notebook machines were seen as weaklings. Now Nvidia Corp, which makes computer graphics cards, has teamed up with Lenovo to offer its second “ion” Netbook, following an announcement last month with Acer.  Nvidia’s suggestion for computer makers is to soup up the low-powered Intel Atom chips which run netbooks by combining them with Nvidia graphics cards.

The new product, the Lenovo IdeaPad S12, is touted by the companies as having the long life of Netbooks, but the quick graphics performance of Nvidia chips. It has a 12-inch screen and a keyboard, which puts it closer in size to the average laptop than to the average netbook.  Of course, the machine is priced closer to a low-powered laptop than it is to a traditional netbook, at $499 (if netbooks, being of such recent vintage, can be characterized as traditional).

The machine is said to run video games and other applications that usually can only limp along on a normal netbook. It runs all recent versions of Windows and will show high-definition Blue-ray movies.

Dell unveils new rugged laptop

Most people beat up their laptops and eventually pay the price. But not so with an emerging class of so-called rugged laptops. Dell is releasing its second-generation fully-rugged model – the Latitude E6400 XFR – and the company says it provides even better protection from rain, dust and dirt, drops and spills and temperature extremes.

The 14.1-inch, 8.5 pound, touch-screen unit – which starts at $4,299 – is designed for military, first responders, oil and gas workers, factory floors and other areas where you would never dare drag a standard laptop. It’s a bit lighter and thinner than the first-generation XFR, and can get more than 13 hours of battery life with an optional 12-cell battery slice.

The unit’s chassis has what the company calls a “Ballistic Armor” protection system that Dell says provides twice the impact strength of traditional magnesium alloy. The laptop should be able to withstand a tumble from as high as four feet when closed and powered down, and three feet when open and working.

Apple’s ghost hovers over IFA

A worker cleans parts of the Samsung exhibition stand at the Internationale Funkaustellung consumer electronics fair in BerlinApple‘s ghost was hovering over the feast of gadgetry at IFA, the world’s largest consumer electronics fair in Berlin. Unlike most of its competitors, Apple itself didn’t have a stand – its still very much alive chief executive Steve Jobs doesn’t like to share the limelight with others.But Apple was the benchmark against which many of the journalists and trade buyers present assessed rival wares. Two products were touted as Apple killers, though neither quite makes it.

The one that comes closer is iRiver‘s SPINN media player, which is a similar size to Apple’s iPod Touch but 40% lighter and has a touchscreen with superior OLED technology, which makes it ideal for watching video. The SPINN’s angular metal case contrasts with the more rounded Touch and is named after an knob built into its top right corner that allows users to easily flick through photos and music.

Buyers in the market for a dedicated music and video player may overlook the SPINN’s lack of wifi to connect to the internet, which the Touch has, but the SPINN’s Achilles’ heel is its meagre 8 gigabytes of memory. This is enough for thousands of songs but only three or four films. The top-of-the-range Touch has four times the capacity.